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Sue Polanka

NO shelf required
E-Books in Libraries

Sue Polanka is the moderator of No Shelf Required, a blog about the issues surrounding e-books for librarians and publishers. No Shelf Required won first place in the academic category of the Salem Press Library Blog Awards, 2010. Her intrigue with e-books began in 1999 with the introduction of NetLibrary and advanced with the evolution of online reference sources. She has been a reference and instruction librarian for twenty years at public, state, and academic libraries in ohio and texas and is currently the head of reference and instruction at the Wright State University Libraries in Dayton, ohio. She has served on the Booklist Reference Books Bulletin Advisory Board for ten years, was chair from 2007 to 2010, and writes a column for the Bulletin, Off the Shelf, to discuss electronic reference issues.

2011 by the American Library Association. Any claim of copyright is subject to applicable limitations and exceptions, such as rights of fair use and library copying pursuant to Sections 107 and 108 of the U.S. Copyright Act. No copyright is claimed in content that is in the public domain, such as works of the U.S. government. Printed in the United States of America 15 14 13 12 11 54321

While extensive effort has gone into ensuring the reliability of the information appearing in this book, the publisher makes no warranty, express or implied, with respect to the material contained herein. ISBN: 978-0-8389-1054-2 library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data no shelf required : e-books in libraries / edited by Sue Polanka. p.cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-0-8389-1054-2 (alk. paper) 1. Libraries and electronic publishing. 2. Electronic books. I. Polanka, Sue. Z716.6.N62 2011 025.17'4dc22 2010014045 Book cover design by Kirstin Krutsch. text design in charis SiL by Karen Sheets de Gracia. This paper meets the requirements of ANSI/NISO Z39.48-1992 (Permanence of Paper). ala editions also publishes its books in a variety of electronic formats. For more information, visit the ala Store at www.alastore.ala.org and select eeditions.

The Future of academic Book Publishing: e-books and Beyond


or more than one hundred years, academic book publishers have remained sheltered from any prolific change that would turn their business upside down, until now. With increasingly higher demands for online content, it is no surprise that e-books will play a large role in changing what was once one of the most traditional of industries. the race is on among vendors and publishers to take advantage of this rapidly growing new marketplace. the advances in technology that allow e-books to go mobile, to be downloaded, customized, or sent instantly across the globe change daily, and the economically strapped publishing industry built primarily for a printed book environment has to change as well. How individuals access digital content will depend largely on how academic publishers adapt to the new digital environment. Publishers have embraced the e-book as a new product model but still have a great deal to absorb in order for it to be a sustainable component of their business. Absorbing the rapid changes in e-book technology alone

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seems like an insurmountable task. technology is not the only challenge, though, as publishers are changing their traditional editorial and production processes to become more efficient at publishing and distributing digital content. it is fascinating to think that, for decades, academic publishers were entrenched in a print world, and now the emergence of e-books has totally turned this world upside down overnight. But change is inevitable, as Sue Polanka notes: Change is constant and provides opportunities and threats at every corner (Polanka 2009). Where are publishers now with the realization that e-books are here to stay? What challenges and opportunities do they have? How can they assist the library community to make their content more discoverable? What will happen to print? in this chapter i explore what academic publishers have learned so far about e-books and what their plans are to remain competitive in a constantly changing market.

PrInT: SaFeTy In numBerS

Before looking into the future of e-books from a publishers perspective, one must consider the foundation that most publishers built before they even thought about publishing or launching an e-book. Since the beginning, academic publishers of reference works, textbooks, and monographs had one goal in mind for a book: develop it, produce it, and get it to the customer. this might seem like an overly simple process, but it is quite an involving ordeal that publishers always try to perfect, to keep cost effective, and, for all, to make profitable. It is important to understand this traditional process in order to understand why publishers are where they are today and why it is still not a perfect world for them. in the print world, publishers created editorial models that allowed them to build publishing programs that would brand them as specialists in one or more disciplines. These models set them up for the specific types of products they would create, such as reference works, monographs, or textbooks. the editorial process was the core function, and this still holds true whether a company is publishing print or electronic products. But many publishers that built their editorial process on the foundation that the content would be bound and printed soon learned that with e-books a whole new set of challenges would appear.

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one such challenge was content conversion, the process of converting word files into coded files such as XML that allow the content to maintain the greatest flexibility on an e-book platform. Another challenge was the perplexing rights management issue; electronic rights were needed even when one had secured print rights. Probably the biggest challenge was deciding how many books to print with the knowledge that an electronic versions sales could displace print sales. Before e-books emerged, for example, a typical print run on an encyclopedia for the life of the edition was two thousand units. But now, publishers are printing encyclopedias as well as offering them as e-books. How might this affect a print run? It differs between publishers, but it is highly unlikely that a publisher prints two thousand units, and in some cases the run may even be lower than half of that. of course, economic conditions play a large role in potential sales of a product, but the bottom line is that shrinking print runs are a result of e-books replacing print sales. Looking at the economics of this more closely, it is not entirely a dire situation to have an increase of e-books and a decrease of print books, but the publisher must weigh what the minimum print run could be to sustain a reasonable profit margin because lower runs mean higher unit costs. Higher unit costs could eventually mean that a print publishing program is no longer sustainable, or that a publisher no longer has the required financial resources to allocate to book publishing. These reasons are why there are still so many print books available during a time when e-books may be preferable. Thus, the publishers must adaptbut how?

The ParaDIgm ShIFT: The PrInTeD worD goeS DIgITal

For publishers, moving into the digital realm has been an arduous task, and the main challenge is investing in technology. Before a publisher even can launch an e-book, it must decide how it will disseminate the content digitally. the most common options are to self-host on a platform the publisher invests in a vendor to build or, to avoid that costly process, to simply license the content to an e-book aggregator. these options are discussed in more detail below.

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Few, if any, book publishers have the experience or the systems to build an e-book platform internally. thus, the alternative is to seek out a technology vendor who can best equip them with a customized platform. the type of content one produces can dictate the scope of the platform built, but the advantages of a customized platform can help the publisher maintain its brand and commitment to the quality behind the content. For example, a journals publisher might seek different functionality on a platform than a monograph publisher. investing in such a platform is expensive, and it is a cost publishers have not had to deal with until recently. Still, most major academic publishers have built, via a technology vendor, their own e-book platforms and created their own pricing and access and hosting models to go with them. the ability of a publisher to host its own content has become popular due to the controls the publisher can place on what products are put online, how much to charge for the products, and, if updates are required, the ability to add them as needed. This flexibility has allowed publishers to create savvy e-book platforms, but the market quickly became flooded with them. this result created a myriad of pricing and access models that the customer had to choose from, ranging from perpetual ownership to a subscription model. the solution that most librarians currently desire is a reasonable one: buy and host all their content on one standard platform. it is unlikely that publishers will band together to have their content hosted on one standard platform, so they are now more willing to license their content to e-book aggregators, which in many ways can serve as a standard platform with consistent pricing. Even though publishers continue to invest in their own platforms, licensing content to aggregators such as netLibrary, Gale Virtual reference Library, ebrary, and credo reference has become a necessary component of their overall e-book strategy. there are, however, pros and cons to licensing content to e-book aggregators. on the positive side, aggregators have the expertise in technology and content delivery that allows a seamless process for publishers to offer their content online, especially if they do not have their own e-book platform. Aggregators are usually more adaptive to new technological trends or applications which, in many ways, make their delivery system more state of the art than that of a publisher. on the negative side, each aggregator has its own business model and content conversion requirements. taking the content conversion requirement into consideration can be a costly

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choice for a publisher. certain aggregators require publishers to submit XML files rather than PDF files. If the publisher does not have the required file format, it is charged for the conversion. Included in each aggregators business model is its own licensing arrangement with publishers. A publisher can license a book to aggregator A and the same book to aggregator B and receive two entirely different financial arrangements. Assuming the financial arrangements regardless of the aggregator are acceptable, it is difficult to predict how many titles will be sold on a regular basis, so forecasting licensing revenue is challenging. A final disadvantage of e-book aggregators is the weakening of publisher brand identity. Publishers value their brand, and many customers become loyal to certain publishing brands. the bottom line for aggregators is to acquire as much content as possible, because the more content they have, the more money they make. A publisher that adds one hundred titles to an e-book vendor that already has five thousand titles in its system from hundreds of publishers finds it difficult to maintain any brand identity. this problem slightly goes against the publishers mantra of valuing the content it publishes.

e-BookS anD eConomICS

The economics of e-books have changed the financial mind-set of publishers and how they approach retaining, if not increasing, their bottom line expectations. Print sales, especially, are declining. As mentioned earlier, there are new expense considerations that come with e-books, such as conversion costs and higher print unit costs, but e-books also present some efficiencies. Publishers are taking advantage of these efficiencies. Distribution is far more cost effective for e-books than print books because there are no fulfillment, inventory, and shipping costs. Publishers who ship hundreds or thousands of books per day see huge savings if they fulfill an e-book order rather than a bound book order. There are no returns on e-books, which solves an age-old problem publishers faced as monthly returns from library wholesalers appeared. the cost of processing returns disappears too, and the revenue reports look a lot better without a credit column added to them. Discounts given to library wholesalers may become more moderate since the wholesalers do not handle, ship,

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or process physical inventory. Wholesalers have become active in e-book transactions between libraries and publishers, and the discount rates set for e-books are proportionately lower than for bound books. Publishers are taking advantage of these cost savings and have even begun to create born-digital e-books. Even though there may be a slim print market for a particular book type, such as monographs, publishers bypass the print run altogether to save costs by offering only a digital version. If the library wants a print edition, there are efficient and cost-effective print-on-demand options available to them, such as ingrams Lightning Source. Publishers make their files available to these vendors so they can keep their print-buying customers happy while maintaining a reasonable profit margin by selling the digital version. With these cost efficiencies in mind, publishers have found ways to offset the costs which, as mentioned earlier, challenged them as they created their e-book strategy. once a publisher has established its e-book strategy, new revenue opportunities are created out of a successful e-book program. Publishers can sell e-books in collections and offer a discount to libraries based on a bulk purchase. reference and monograph collections are popular and will grow even more popular as libraries run out of shelf space. For example, libraries can now buy an entire reference collection without taking up any more room. collections are also a must for publishers, because libraries continue to demand more and more from consortia, and consortia traditionally do not offer their member institutions single e-book purchasing. though still untested and unproven, there are two new opportunists for publishers to sell their e-book content: pay-per-view and buy-by-thechapter or by-the-article. Pay-per-view is potentially the riskier of the two options for book content, as far as publishers are concerned. Pay-per-view is available now with journals, but customers may question the value of that type of content over that of an encyclopedia. Will a customer pay $0.99 just to view a 1,500-word article? Publishers doubt that they will and are thus far more intrigued about selling their content in chunks.

The article economy

The pay-per-view model has opened new markets that journal publishers have discovered since offering their content onlinethat is, a potentially robust market exists for selling individual journal articles. By selling

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journal articles individually, journal publishers vastly increase their customer reach to those who are not interested in subscribing to annual journals but are interested in one article. the same can be applied to publishers of e-books. Academic publishers of edited works such as handbooks and encyclopedias are now considering selling chapters and entries. if they sell an article on a purchase model, the revenue incurred on that item would be incremental. This means that a significant amount of volume would have to be sold to make it a profitable venture. the real proof that this model might work lies in the popularity of smartphones, such as the iPhone. Several publishers are considering adding an application to the iPhone service that enables their content to be discovered at the article level. this is a fascinating prospect for publishers who perhaps can create new e-book products, specifically for these phones, that might go beyond just one article. A small chunk of related content that could be updated or revised could then be sold via a subscription model, which would allow customers to have continual access to the content they want, when they want it, and at an affordable price.

The Free economy

Is free the future? This is the lead question in a New Yorker magazine article by Malcolm Gladwell titled Priced to Sell (2009). The Web is a virtual playground of free information, but, when it comes to the future of academic content in the digital realm, will it ever all be offered for free? that outcome is highly unlikely, but the concept of free information seems inevitable. in his article, Gladwell endorses this notion through a savvy review of Free: The Future of a Radical Price, by Chris Anderson (2009). This book is certainly not the first to describe the notion that information wants to be free. For publishers, the concept of free information has been challenging. Publishers are in the business of developing and disseminating content (or in this case, information), and in the academic publishing business this information is written from an authoritative perspective. thus, publishers charge for the content. in the era of Wikipedia, the same type of information may exist, and for freebut is it authoritative? If a student doing research for a term paper needs information fast, what source will she chose? The notion of free can easily impact her decision. Wikipedia is a useful resource, but like all free information found on the Web it has

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its limitations. Publishers must accept that free information is a fact of the current and future information environment, but they can still maintain a sustainable business by providing authoritative content via new digital content delivery models.

e-Book reaDerS
As the choice to access free or paid content online becomes more desirable, the ways in which one can have it delivered are growing. As e-books were evolving, there were still only limited ways to make the content available. one could access the content on a computer that perhaps was networked into a system where the purchased e-books were stored. this is the basic model in the library setting where e-books are subscribed to or purchased from a publisher or aggregator. Just as publishers became more adaptive in pricing and servicing this model, the introduction of an obvious technological solution to e-book viewing hit the market by storm. E-readers emerged on the scene only a few short years ago. In 2007, Amazon released the first-generation Kindle, a handheld reading device that stores e-books. Amazon even has an online bookstore to go with it. Although there was a hefty cost to the Kindle at $359, the cost of an e-book for the device was high. In the digital books world, a number of the costs are removed, so we believe [e-books] should be priced lower, said Russell Grandinetti, vice president of books for Amazon (Grossman and Sachs 2009, 102). The price of $9.95 for downloading an e-book to a handheld device was an instant wake-up call for publishers. the e-reader phenomenon as it relates to academic publishing is another issue altogether. reading a novel on a reader is an unusual experience, but novels probably fit the technology more than other types of books. For the college textbook market, Amazon created a version of the Kindle 2, the DX, which was launched to promote easier viewing of textbooks and periodicals. many textbooks have complex tables and graphics, and though the larger Dx screen can accommodate those, they still lack color. the lack of color is not the only thing that seems to be turning college students away from the Kindle Dx. in a pilot program at Princeton

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University, fifty students received the DX at no cost. But according to the Daily Princetonian, the students experiences were not encouraging for the Kindle: Much of my learning comes from a physical interaction with the text: bookmarks, highlights, page-tearing . . . not to mention margin notes . . . all these things have been lost, stated one student (Lee 2009). one might assume such a reaction to any device that attempts to display a textbook, not just the Kindle. Aside from textbooks, other products on e-readers may have better odds with students. Academic journal and reference publishers are looking carefully at the business models and prospects of allowing their content to be sold through the reader channel. A small chunk of information, such as a journal article, might be a more palatable sale to a student or researcher than a full textbook. the idea appears viable, but publishers also question how many end users of their content own an e-reader. Publishers also wonder what type of device most students own, and could that device easily store and display a short article? For example, smartphones are becoming more advanced and even more affordable, especially to college students. Publishers are more than aware of this, and it seems there is a more positive reaction to disseminating content through smartphone technology than through e-readers. it is doubtful that a student would want an organic biology text on his smartphone, but from an economic standpoint publishers might sustain a decent return on their investment by selling an encyclopedia article or journal article as a onetime purchase using the smartphone service for distribution.

ChallengeS movIng ForwarD: PaCe verSuS ouTComeS

the challenges that e-books pose to publishers go way beyond studying the economics, reengineering the editorial process, and adapting to new distribution models. If publishers satisfactorily figure out those three components alone, they will have won only half the battle. on the other side of this battle are several challenges still to be faced. the important concept of discoverability is a serious one that has been debated among publishers and libraries. the creation of an acceptable standard that all parties can agree on is necessary. the technology is there, but

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publishers often find themselves wondering if there is a more affordable solution that does not require a huge investment. Partnering with vendors such as Serials Solutions and its KnowledgeWorks, which contains over two million e-books and journal holdings from hundreds of publishers, might seem like an affordable solution. Simply licensing content onto as many e-book aggregators as possible could be another remedy. the outcome of using such services might make the content discoverable, but how does such a relationship protect the publishers brand? Would the end users even care who the publisher is behind the content? Probably not. Publishers must decide what the overall impact of the discoverability revolution to their business will be. they all believe in their brand and the importance of enhancing it, but marketing that brand becomes difficult if their content is just a tiny portion of a much larger resource. the pace of technology will also have a tremendous impact on e-book publishers. Smartphones are popular now, but what will be next? While publishers are figuring out the business model for the current technology, a new device or process will be introduced and new models will have to be considered. Publishers are driven by producing high-quality content and getting it to the customer, which are part of their conservative and traditional core values. trying to stay ahead or even on top of the technology curve is virtually impossible for a publisher, and it is perhaps for this reason that companies such as Amazon and Google have taken a leading role in the content distribution business. They are not just keeping pace, they are setting the pace. the aggressive pace to provide more e-books has serious implications for print. there are cost implications for reducing print runs, but those can be managed provided that the publisher effectively replaces print revenue with revenue from electronic products. But there is a larger issue to consider: is print dead in the academic library? the immediate answer is no, or perhaps not yet. Declining print sales for reference and monograph works are expected year on year to the point that publishers may have to consider making their book strategies solely born digital. It is difficult to predict when and if this will happen on a global scale, but as the demand for e-books and other electronic content increases, publishers will have to phase out specific processes that are tied to producing print just to stay profitable. This may sound like an extreme scenario, but even though publishers might not keep the proper pace with

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all of the elements, they still believe in the great opportunities e-books can create for them, and the outcomes will be maximized.
reFerenCeS Anderson, Chris. 2009. Free: The Future of a Radical Price. new york: Hyperion. Gladwell, Malcolm. 2009. Priced to Sell. New Yorker, July. Grossman, Lev, and Andrea Sachs. 2009. Big River. Time, June, 101103.

Polanka, Sue. 2009. Introduction. Journal of Library Administration 49 (May/ June 2009): 325326.

Lee, Hyung. 2009. Kindles Yet to Woo University Users. Daily Princetonian, November 16, www.dailyprincetonian.com/2009/09/28/23918/.

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